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C O N T E N T S Volume 10, Number 1
Fea t u r e s
38 Underwater World
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C O N T E N T S Volume 10, Number 1
D epa r t m e n t s
Housekeeper Médéric Brown is a talented musician and dancer.
Story by Christine Hitt Photography by Dana Edmunds
At the Keiki Club, children connect with Hawaiian culture.
Story by Powell Berger Photography by Olivier Koning
Classroom in Disguise
Sustainability has been a focus of the hotel since opening day.
Story by Powell Berger Photography by Dana Edmunds
A documentary revisits the legendary Hawaiian Room nightclub.
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Ed i to r ’s No t e
are delicate things that we must preserve and protect for future generations.
As the stories in this issue remind us, nature, culture, even our memories
When The Kahala Hotel & Resort opened on January 22, 1964, it was ahead of its time. Yes, the architecture was lauded for its unique design—unabashedly modern while complementing its natural surroundings. But another more subtle element was included that also benefited nature. Built into the landscape was a waterfall—not unusual for Hawai‘i. But this was no ordinary waterfall. It was part of a cutting-edge aerating system that used seawater to chill the hotel’s cooling system. That system, still in use today, was just the earliest of many efforts at sustainability, as Powell Berger describes in her story “Good Neighbor Policy,” which looks at the hotel’s commitment to the community by preserving the environment. There are, of course, many kinds of preservation—environmental, cultural, architectural—and in this issue of Kahala magazine we explore several of them. Preserving Hawaiian culture is part of the “curriculum” at the hotel’s Keiki Club. This classroom in disguise, as author Powell Berger describes it, offers fun activities for children, including hula lessons, lei-making, pole fishing and much more. These traditions are passed on to a new generation of kids, who return home with a better understanding of and appreciation for Hawai‘i. Not far from The Kahala Hotel & Resort is an example of preservation at its finest and most beautiful. At Doris Duke’s spectacular Honolulu estate, called Shangri-La, the bedroom was recently restored to its original 1930s appearance. The Mughal Suite was inspired by Duke’s love of Islamic and Central Asian art and architecture, and the bedroom serves not only as an example of Duke’s aesthetic but as a showcase for her collection of art, furnishings and jewelry from the Middle East and Central Asia. Christine Thomas takes us on a tour of the suite and a behind-the-scenes look at its renovation. Preserving memories was the goal of director Ann Marie Kirk in her documentary “The Hawaiian Room,” a film about the New York City nightclub that was the gathering place from 1937 to 1966 of some of the most famous celebrities of our time. Thelma Chang interviews Kirk and some of the club’s performers whose memories inspired the film. Also in this issue, writer Christine Hitt visits with Médéric Brown, recently named Housekeeper of the Year at the Na Po‘e Pa‘ahana Awards. Originally from the Marquesas Islands, Brown shares his culture with the people of Hawai‘i through music and dance. Finally, surfer and internationally renowned photographer Brian Bielmann shows us the ocean from a different perspective, capturing the effect of light, waves and currents on the water’s surface and revealing the ethereal, otherworldly beauty that lies beneath. These images remind us not only of the power and beauty of the ocean but of its fragility. And as the stories in this issue remind us, nature, culture, even our memories are delicate things that we must preserve and protect for future generations.
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Housekeeper Médéric Brown sings a song of aloha
STORY BY CHRISTINE HITT PH O TOGRAPHY BY DANA EDMUNDS
Médéric Brown, with his eight-stringed ‘ukulele, is a musician and dancer, a talent he says comes naturally to those who, like he, grew up in the Marquesas Islands.
HEN DUSK FALLS on Waikïkï, the city’s sidewalks teem with people out to see the sunset, on their way to dinner or headed back from a late-afternoon surf session. Along the way, street performers of various kinds begin lining famous Kaläkaua Avenue, including musicians playing traditional songs of the Marquesas, Tahiti and Hawai‘i. The man playing the eight-stringed Tahitian ‘ukulele is
Médéric Brown. Twice a week, he plays here for fun—that is, when he’s not winning awards for his work at The Kahala Hotel & Resort. Brown was named Housekeeper of the Year at the 2014 Na Po‘e Pa‘ahana Awards. “All this was new for me,” he says, surprised that he had won. “At first, I thought [the award] was only for O‘ahu, but then I realized it was the whole state. It makes you proud.” THE KAHALA 19
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“His good-natured and friendly spirit shines through with everything he does.”
Médéric strolls through the lobby at The Kahala, where he has worked for the past 23 years. In 2014, the Hawai‘i Lodging & Tourism Association honored him as “Housekeeper of the Year” with their Na Po‘e Pa‘ahana Award.
Brown may have been surprised by his win, but it came as no surprise to his friends and coworkers at The Kahala. Besides making sure that guests have everything they need, whether it be towels, rollaway beds, laundry, pillows or any special requests, he is also an ambassador for the hotel, welcoming guests with his cheerful personality. His commitment to helping people goes much further than this, though. He regularly volunteers in the community through his church, and spent four years cooking for the homeless at Kapi‘olani Park. And while he doesn’t think of himself as a mentor, he says that he is inspired to help those in need. “I always say ‘I’ll do my part, whatever that part is,’” he humbly states.
Brown was born in the beautiful Marquesas Islands and lived there with his grandparents until he was a teenager. He enjoyed a simple life on an island that is somewhere between the size of Moloka‘i and Maui, where its people spend their days fishing, planting and collecting coconuts. “It’s not urbanized; it’s pretty much country. We have maybe 10 or 20 cars and no traffic lights,” he says. At the age of 13, he made plans to visit Hawai‘i, but moving here was never the intention. “I went to visit my mom for summer vacation,” he says. “I missed my date to go back on the ticket, so from then, I just decided to stay.” He moved to O‘ahu’s North Shore in 1989 and got a job as a dancer at the Polynesian Cultural Center, performing Tahitian, Maori and Fijian dances. Dancing came easily for him because, he says, it’s “almost everyday life in the islands, so you learn from your family.” Three years later, he moved to Honolulu and started working at The Kahala—and he hasn’t left since. “I like the quietness,” he says, comparing Kahala to the busyness of Waikïkï. He also enjoys the friendships he has built with his coworkers and with visitors to the hotel. “You always see them coming back from time to time, so you build relationships with the guests too.” His good-natured and friendly spirit shines through with everything he does, including in Waikïkï, where he continues to practice his Polynesian culture through music. “Some people who walk by are dancers and ask us to play a certain Hawaiian song,” he says. “Then, you have like 20 performers lined up in the street, with a big crowd. It’s always fun.” And, occasionally, he’ll jump in and dance too. ❀
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A Classroom in Disguise The Keiki Club offers cultural programs for kids
S TO RY B Y P O W E L L B E R G E R P H OTO G R A P H Y B Y O L I V I E R KO N I N G
hana—the connectivity of family by blood and by shared experiences— remains a hallmark of Hawai‘i’s culture and lifestyle, and at The Kahala Hotel & Resort, guests become ‘ohana the moment they walk through the lobby and under those sea-glass chandeliers. Guests know it too—a sense of belonging, breathing in the tropical air, just knowing I’m home. Wander down to the Keiki
Club, nestled behind the areca palms just beyond the waterfall, and that ‘ohana is in full swing—music makers, hula dancers and pole fishermen, one and all. You just have to be between five and 12 years old to get in on the fun. “I’ve gotten to watch so many of these kids grow up,” says Raylani Derouin, a native of O‘ahu and program director for the last 16 years. “One little girl from California was five THE KAHALA 23
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Previous page: Leimomi Consylman leads keiki in a hula lesson. This page: Creating a flower lei and learning to play the ‘ukelele are just two of the many ways to learn about Hawaiian culture.
“I’ve gotten to watch so many of these kids grow up.” —RAYLANI DEROUIN
years old when I first met her and now she is graduating from the University of Hawai‘i,” Derouin says with the pride of an auntie who did her part along the way. “And she still stops by from time to time to say hi.” Then there are the twin brothers from Las Vegas. “They were little, and they cried and cried when dropped off that first year. Now they’re teenagers and stop in to hug me before heading off to surf,” she says, laughing at how her tiny frame gets lost in their big California surfer hugs. Don’t tell the keiki (who just come to have fun), but the program is a classroom in disguise. Derouin makes it her job to share her Hawaiian culture and send these kids home understanding that aloha is a way of life and a flower lei is something really special. The konane board—ancient Hawaiian checkers— sits strategically on the table just where the kids walk in, a magnet into history. Black and white lava rocks are moved strategically around the
carved board. “It’s not how many stones you collect,” Derouin explains, “but who gets to make the last move,” a strategy known, too, by ancient Hawaiian warriors. Keepsakes are part of her strategy. Rafia bracelets adorned with small shells collected along the beach, along with bookmarks, fish and bracelets woven from strips of lauhala (pandanus leaves) are her points of entry to demonstrate how the land—the ‘aina—provides what’s needed, if only you know how to use it. The most popular tool in her toolbox? Pole fishing, of course, off the jetty just past the hotel. Each keiki gets a pole with a tiny, tiny hook, and instructions that when they feel that tug, pull the pole straight up. “But they never do,” she laughs. “As soon as they feel the tug, they start high-fiving and jumping around—‘I caught a fish! I caught a fish!’” Cultural traditions run deep at The Kahala. Keiki and adults alike can sign up for hula lessons, ‘ukulele lessons and lei making. And no visit is complete without an outrigger canoe adventure, paddling in boats just like the ones used by Hawai‘i’s first inhabitants. Make sure to keep an eye out for the honu (turtles)—they often pop up to say hi as you glide by. ❀
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Good Neighbor Policy Protecting the environment with sustainable practices
STORY BY POWELL BERGER PHOTOGRAPHY BY DANA EDMUNDS
ERCHED AT THE FAR END of Kahala Avenue, The Kahala Hotel & Resort sits watch over this storied community, much like a captain at the helm of a grand ship. Besides being home to dignitaries, celebrities and visitors from around the globe, the hotel enjoys the company of neighbors who stroll down for cocktails, lunch, dinner or maybe just to enjoy the dolphins. “The Kahala is a com-
munity hotel. We are part of this community and we want to do right by them,” says Lance Funderburk, director of the hotel’s engineering department and a man on a mission to ensure the hotel’s environmental footprint doesn’t leave a mark on this idyllic island. The hotel’s award-winning environmental programs are a bit like Waldo in the “Where’s Waldo?” book series, hiding in plain sight and THE KAHALA 27
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“The hotel’s original construction was way ahead of its time.
We were green before it was cool.” —LANCE FUNDERBURK
around every corner. Long-time staff members beam when asked about the waterfall so beautifully anchoring the pool area; it’s the original builder’s secret weapon to be gentle on the island and easy on the wallet. Two discreetly hidden deep sea well pumps pull in seawater, aerate it through the waterfall and provide water to the air-conditioning chillers and a natural habitat for the fish, dolphins and turtles. “The hotel’s original construction was way ahead of its time,” Funderburk says. “We were green before it was cool.” By relying on seawater, the hotel saves over 4.5 million gallons of water annually, and the fish, stingrays and dolphins get a new pond of freshly aerated seawater every six to eight hours. The lobby’s sea-glass chandeliers also date back to the original construction, a design so trendy now it’s hard to believe they are more than 50 years old. By the end of 2015, those
in fresh air when the detector signals the need. Most days, fresh Hawaiian breezes wafting through the lobby are all that’s needed. All totaled, these programs save close to 600,000 kilowatt hours of energy annually, enough to light up all the oceanfront homes along Kahala Avenue. As for the hotel’s sumptuous food, there’s a secret to the freshness. Some of those vegetables and herbs are grown on-site, while much of the rest is sourced from local farmers. If you can’t quite clean your plate, don’t worry; it’s not going to waste. GB Farms, a small family business along the Waianae coast, picks up almost 1,500 gallons of food scraps every month just to feed their pigs. Mention recycling and Funderburk lights up like one of his new lightbulbs. “Our goal is to keep this stuff out of the environment in the first place.” Of course, all the glass, cans,
chandeliers will join all the other lights in the hotel already sporting energy-saving LED bulbs. “We have to find bulbs that work in the chandeliers,” Funderburk explains, daring me to pick the one test bulb currently in use. The retrofit isn’t inexpensive; each incandescent bulb costs 43 cents, while the new ones are $20 a piece. “It’s exciting to be in a property that’s willing to invest in the savings,” Funderburk says. Other innovative, energy-saving technologies have been deployed in the common areas and the kitchens. VFDs (variable frequency drives) on the kitchen hoods trigger the fans to kick in only when needed. Similar systems control A/C use in the ballroom and meeting rooms, and carbon dioxide detectors monitor the common areas and the garage, only pulling
plastic and paper get recycled, but that’s just the beginning. The kitchen’s cooking oils are turned into biodiesel; printer cartridges are recycled; landscape clippings are collected for mulching; the back-of-house cardboard, pallets, wood scraps and paper are recycled; and on-site composting relies on earthworms to get the job done. And when there’s a remodel on the property, nothing gets tossed. The furniture, dishes, artwork, beds, lamps and anything else up for grabs is either donated to local causes or made available to employees. Receiving the Hawai‘i Green Business Award means a lot to Funderburk and the rest of the Kahala team, but it’s really just the pineapple slice in their perfectly mixed mai tai. “It’s the right thing to do,” says Funderburk. “That’s why we do it.” ❀
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Capturing the golden years of The Hawaiian Room
S TO RY B Y T H E L M A C H A N G
T IS THE WINTER OF 1961. A plane sits on the snow-covered tarmac at New York’s Idlewild Airport (today’s Kennedy International). When the door opens, a young woman, wearing a skirt of ti leaves, emerges into the freezing cold and smiles, despite the fact that her bare legs and arms are exposed to the icy chill. She is soon joined on the plane’s stairway by a simi-
larly attired woman who also pauses and smiles broadly for a photographer as he rushes to and fro capturing this unusual scene. More than 50 years later, Nona Wilson recalls the moment vividly. She and her colleague had crossed an ocean and a continent to begin their stay as performers at the legendary Hawaiian Room in the Lexington Hotel. THE KAHALA 31
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PREVIOUS PAGE: TUTASI WILSON (RIGHT) AT THE HAWAIIAN ROOM, LATE 1930S. THIS PAGE: ALUMNA GATHER FOR THE FILM’S PREMIERE (LEOLANI HAGEN IS
(PREVIOUS PAGE), COURTESY OF HULA PRESERVATION SOCIETY, TUTASI WILSON COLLECTION. (THIS PAGE) ©SANDRA WONG GEROUX
SEATED FAR RIGHT).
“We are wearing ti-leaf skirts in the middle of winter,” she says. “In those days, there’s no jetway into a warm terminal. You’re out in the open.” Leonani “Leo” Hagen, a university student at the time, also remembers that trip with Wilson, their first ever from Hawai‘i to New York. It was the photographer’s idea that they don their hula attire for the pictures. “We had to take our shoes off,” she says. “And we’re shivering in an icebox.” Back then, Hagen and Wilson were the new arrivals, part of a long wave of young and talented Hawaiian dancers, musicians and singers who performed their magic at The Hawaiian Room. From 1937 to 1966, the wildly popular nightclub fulfilled guests’ perceptions of an exotic “Pacific Paradise,” while the entertainers kept themselves warm in a strange city with their aloha spirit and memories of home. For the hundreds of young women who through the years left an island home of blue waters, lush green surroundings and the scent of colorful blossoms, New York offered stark contrasts. “There was no sun, no moon, just tall buildings around that blocked everything,” says Wilson. “When I walked into The Hawaiian Room, I felt right at home.” It was important to capture these memories of the Hawaiian Room experiences before they were lost to time, according to filmmaker Ann Marie Kirk, whose notable projects include “Homealani” and “Happy BirthdayTutu Ruth.” Those memories were the inspiration for Kirk’s documentary “The Hawaiian Room.”
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FROM TOP: FORMER ENTERTAINERS ONSTAGE AT THE FILM’S PREMIERE. TEMOANA MAKOLO LEADS A DANCE. MONA JOY LUM ENJOYS THE FILM.
A few years before the film became reality, Kirk met Hawaiian elders while working with the Hula Preservation Society, a nonprofit group dedicated to preserving the stories of hula masters through oral histories. “One of my passions is interviewing the küpuna, the elders of our community who are not well-known,” says Kirk. During one interview, the Hawaiian Room story emerged, sparking a memory of Tutasi Wilson, a local cultural treasure whom she had interviewed in 1998. Wilson was the last survivor of one of the earliest groups at The Hawaiian Room, recalls Kirk. “Tutasi was a beautiful woman inside and out. She died at the age of 99 in 2013.” Kirk’s film project began in earnest the year before, in 2012. “Once I started, I couldn’t stop because it’s in your head all of the time,” she says. “Driving in my truck with my dogs, going to the countryside and along the way my head’s full of images … It was like sewing together a patchwork quilt.” The film’s images include slices of life at The Hawaiian Room (art deco and Polynesian furnishings, dancers in sarongs) and capture a different era (men in suits, women dressed to the nines, complete with nylons, gloves and full makeup). Celebrities flocked to the club, including Cary Grant, Sidney Poitier and a flirtatious Marlon Brando. Richard Burton celebrated a birthday there with friends. “The circular part of the room became a lagoon filled with water, with a water slide entry,” recalls Hagen of the birthday celebration. “Fully clothed or not, the guests went down the slide.” Those years at The Hawaiian Room included the all-important groups of talented musicians and singers, men such as bandleader Ray Kinney and singers Charles Kaipo Miller and Richard Loo. There was also a trio who wore aloha shirts, not suits: Candido “Candy” Dimanlig, Sam Kaia and Dennis Regor. “Candy played flute and guitar beautifully,” Hagen says of the man who had also been a member of Xavier Cugat’s Latin music band, a group popular in the years following World War II. When not working at The Hawaiian Room, the performers would often visit a nearby jazz club, where they saw some of the biggest artists of all time, including Billie Holliday and Ella Fitzgerald. “I listened to Peggy Lee, a legend,” says Wilson of the dusky-voiced singer whose hits in the 1940s and 1950s include “Lover” and “Fever.” The Hawaiian Room symbolized popular media’s own version of the island fantasy. Movies such as “Bird of Paradise” and “Blue Hawaii” lumped different Polynesian cultures into one package of exotica. “Some people may look at the cellophane skirts, the glitz,” Kirk says. “They’re missing the point. The dancers from Hawai‘i were very well trained in their art. Can you imagine a Broadway show lasting for 30 years?” Kirk remembers the dancers with affection: “I was fascinated by their humility, not fully recognizing their talents, that they were part of something big and
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“They knew hula artistry at its core, had the attitude of aloha and sharing and a great sense of humor. They were classy ladies.” —ANN MARIE KIRK
BELOW: FORMER ENTERTAINER RITA KAUI SANTANA IN NEW YORK,
©SANDRA WONG GEROUX
historic. They knew hula artistry at its core, had the attitude of aloha and sharing and a great sense of humor. They were classy ladies.” A world away in time and space, the patchwork of images in Kirk’s mind became reality when “The Hawaiian Room” made its New York debut in October 2014. Wearing colorful island attire and flower lei, former dancers, their grandchildren and others from Hawai‘i and the mainland made the trip to New York, gathered at the Lexington and amazed guests and others in the lobby. “Some put down their luggage, others danced with the ladies,” recalls Kirk. “The Lexington employees received tickets and were blown away.” No doubt, the employees were thrilled at the opportunity to view a documentary that honored a colorful history which linked their hotel and the Hawaiian Islands. The film was launched at a local theater, and the contrasts were palpable in the standing-room-only crowd. “I came off the cold street from a taxi and into this theater and felt the warmth and aloha,” says Elizabeth Reilly, a Hawai‘i resident and former New Yorker. “Some of us had on dark clothes, wearing jackets and boots, while many islanders wore aloha attire of reds, greens, blues and had fragrant flowers in their hair. I noticed a few with slippers on their feet. So charming.” As in New York, the film’s Honolulu premiere a few months later sparked a similar reaction, especially when some of the Hawaiian Room ladies were presented on stage and Mona Joy Lum, a former dancer, sang in a strong voice to a packed theater. For a moment in time, the past became the present. “No one wanted the evening to end,” says Kirk. “I’m happy to have captured a story true to its feeling.” ❀
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Th e h e a rt-sto p p i n g p h o to g ra p h y o f BRI AN BI E L M ANN
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“There’s nothing like having a surfboard whiz over your head only inches away.”
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I started shooting underwater waves and surfers about 17 years ago, long before the GoPros and iPhones and long before Instagram; and there were just a few of us doing it, mostly just here and there in between surf shooting. I decided early on after a trip to Tahiti, where I was shooting with my wife (then-girlfriend), that this was untapped territory and I wanted to be the first to really make it my own. I chose to shoot many sessions from under water rather than above. I use only swim fins and a mask and no tanks and just hold my breath from one wave to the next. There were times I felt I blew it and missed some really great shots above the surface that the other surf photographers got; but as time has gone by and my library of images has grown I realize that my underwater shots are the greatest achievement in my photography career. I have put together a selection of some of my favorite images for this issue and have no greater pleasure than to see them all together—the variety, colors and overall vibe of what it’s like to be below the surface. It’s a whole other world and I’m so happy when I’m there, so close to all that energy. There’s nothing like having a surfboard whiz by your head only inches away, or seeing an underwater wave exploding on the reef below, or seeing a surfer wipe out. As he penetrates through the wave, he makes eye contact only to be sucked back into the wave to be thrashed on the reef. I have no intention of slowing down anytime soon and look forward to shooting new ideas that I have. I hope that you can feel a little bit of the excitement that I get while shooting. These photos are a gift from God and I cherish them. Ah, if only I never had to come up.—Brian Bielmann
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“As he penetrates through the wave, he makes eye contact only to be sucked back into the wave.”
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â€œI use only swim fins and a mask and no tanks and just hold my breath from one wave to the next.â€?
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JEWEL OF SHANGRI LA Doris Duke’s Mughal Suite is a masterpiece
CHRISTINE THOMAS LINNY MORRIS
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“Precisely at the time I fell in love with Hawaii and I decided I could never live anywhere else, a Mughal-inspired bedroom and bathroom planned for another house was being completed for me in India, so there was nothing to do but have it shipped to Hawaii and build a house around it.” —Doris Duke
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It was dark, hot and musty—more a neglected storeroom pulsing with PREVIOUS SPREAD: MUGHAL SUITE EXTERIOR AND VIEW FROM THE HOUSE. THIS SPREAD: THE INFLUENCE OF MUGHAL DYNASTY ART AND ARCHITECTURE ON DUKE’S AESTHETIC IS EVIDENT IN THE BEDROOM’S DESIGN.
Diamond Head heat than a luxurious set of rooms. This was what the restoration team at Shangri-La, tobacco heiress Doris Duke’s (1912-1993) five-acre estate, discovered when they began renovating Duke’s bedroom suite in 2012. But when the rooms were cleared and the glass doors opened behind stunning openwork marble jali, or Indian sliding screens, everything changed. Duke’s bedroom, they discovered, was as much about what was outside the room as inside. “When you open these up, just the glass—you don’t even have to open up the marble— it’s like you’re in this magic pavilion,” says Kent Severson, Shangri-La’s conservator. The room is gently filled with the ocean’s hush as trade winds weave through perforated marble screens diffusing sunlight and heat. It’s both beautifully open and completely private. “It’s light and air and sound,” says Severson. What is today called the Mughal Suite opened to the public in late 2014, a vital addition to the Shangri-La experience. These rooms are not merely Duke’s enchanting bedroom, dressing room and bath—they were the first seed of this ancient yet modern and every-bit palatial Center for Islamic Arts and Cultures. The suite’s creation began in 1935, on Duke’s around-the-world honeymoon trip with husband James Cromwell, where two months of extensive travel in India forever impacted her design aesthetic. She was immediately inspired to incorporate Mughal Dynasty art and architectural elements into the newlywed suite she’d planned for her mother-in-law’s Palm Beach estate. For this, her first major commission, Duke hired Delhi-based British architect Francis B. Blomfield to oversee the suite’s building by India Marble Works in Agra, while they traveled on. But once Duke and Cromwell arrived in Hawai‘i near the honeymoon’s end, the Palm Beach plans were abandoned. The Mughal Suite instead became the keystone of her new 14,000-square-foot Diamond Head home, Shangri-La, completed in 1938. Everything about the suite is distinct. It’s the only place in Shangri-La featuring elaborately carved marble, some inlaid with precious stones; jali; inlaid mirrored ceilings; and that prominently displays Islamic art from India. It also illuminates Duke’s enduring drive and the vision she possessed at the impossibly young age of 22. “I think she has a really good eye for design and display,” says Shangri-La Executive Director Deborah Pope. “While the house is being designed and built, she’s traveling in Morocco , Iran and Syria , she’s photographing and filming historic buildings and sending details to the architect, saying ‘this is the style of capital I want on the top of the columns on the patio, and this is the style of column shafts I want on the façade of the playhouse.’ It’s that ability to take details off a historical prototype and apply them to how she wants to put the house together.” RESTO RIN G THE J EWEL When Shangri-La opened in 2002, Pope expected the Mughal Suite would be accessible just a few years later, but roof and other repairs at the detached Playhouse delayed the team. By 2006, they realized the 2000-square-foot concrete roof over the private wing, which included the suite and Duke’s study, had continued leaking as it must have when Duke was alive. Yet each attempt to repair it failed. The roof was finally rebuilt in 2012, and its original 700-square-foot jali pavilion re-cast
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and re-erected a year later. So it wasn’t until 2012 that discussions really began about restoring what suite visitors would actually see. One of the first tasks was determining how much of Duke to include in these inescapably intimate rooms—Duke’s will clearly explains that Shangri-La’s mission is learning about and understanding Islamic art and culture, not her. “We always have that creative tension,” says Pope. “You can’t really remove her from the house— she’s so felt everywhere because it’s a private home and private collection.” The challenge was both what to show in her private bedroom, and how. The team initially surveyed every bedroom photograph from 1938, when Duke moved in, up to her death in 1993, and quickly gravitated to the 1930s and early 1940s when the rooms and architecture looked most striking. “In a way that you can’t so much in the rest of the house, you could really zero in on how transformative that honeymoon trip in India was,” says Pope. “That’s really what spawns her collecting and building Shangri-La. To show that and tell that piece of the story was what we wanted.” A L O O K I N SI D E Shangri-La is indeed imbued with a kind of magic—it’s a place very few people had seen but from the sea, but now, through tours run by the Honolulu Museum of Art, are welcomed inside. Every part possesses a purposefully different look and mood, and when the suite’s first marble jali appears at the entrance, it’s obvious another bewitching space waits. The bedroom is luminous, lavished with pale marble that’s subtly complemented by sand-colored walls. Four pierced-metal Syrian globe lights hang above as they have since Duke moved in. Two curving, red velvet settee reproductions frame a marble Mughal fireplace. Persian-style figural paintings (facsimiles) purchased on Duke’s honeymoon hang exactly as they appear in early photographs. It’s all simply yet beautifully arranged. “Those red divans, the shape, the composition of the framed images, the alternation of the framed prints, the marble elements, the fireplace, the jalis,” says Pope. “There’s a kind of rhythm and pattern of movement and light that gets set up in here, and those are some of the elements that made those early photographs look so beautiful.” Because it’s not central to Islamic art, Duke’s bed isn’t displayed—its textiles are also too fragile to show, and its size impedes visitors’ movement. But in its place is a pedestal vitrine that, along with two wall vitrines, allows part of Duke’s Mughal jewelry collection to be viewed for the first time. Gold bangles, gem-encrusted vessels, gold boxes and even daggers sparkle softly in the light. On either side of the dressing room entry, two meticulously restored Syrian inlaid mother-of-pearl chests rest in front of two red-hued 18th- and 19th-century Indian silk embroidered textiles. Inside, individually cut mirrors inlaid in a starburst pattern in the plaster ceiling transform the dressing room into a glittering chamber—a whimsical last-minute addition adopted during Duke’s 1938 Middle East travels. The adjacent marble bathroom is adorned with ornate floral-patterned jali windows and vibrant European-made lamps. The sunken tub is encircled by 26 graceful floral patterns inlaid with segments of such semiprecious stones as lapis lazuli and jade. “We actually know what the prototype is for each,” says Pope; they were borrowed from 17th-century patterns Duke observed at the Taj Mahal and Delhi’s Red Fort. The one site where Duke’s presence is directly embraced is the repurposed walk-in closet. A small exhibit offers visitors a personal glimpse of Shangri-La’s origin, her travels, Duke’s interest in Islamic art and a silent video clip of Duke during the construction. There’s no set talk, and guides encourage guests to explore at their own pace. This way, visitors listen to the ocean, are embraced by the breeze and are immersed in the art and architecture of the inimitable and transformative Mughal Suite. “It’s the real jewel of the house,” says Severson. ❀
ABOVE: THE BATHROOM FEATURES FLORAL PATTERNS INLAID WITH SEMIPRECIOUS STONES. OPPOSITE: A CORRIDOR FEATURING IMPORTED TILEWORK AND A PERFORATED JALI SCREEN LEAD TO THE MUGHAL SUITE.
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